Willowherbs are flowering now. Their four petalled flowers vary in colour from deep pink to pale pink; their leaves are toothed and lance-shaped like those on certain willow trees and their plumed seeds fly around like those from willow trees.
Great willowherb (Epilobiumhirsutum) or Lus na trionóide in Irish is a tall and beautiful plant that can be seen in damp places. (1a) The leaves are stalkless and hairy; the tall, erect, robust stems are also hairy. No wonder it is sometimes called the Hairy willowherb! Its four deep pink petals are notched. The four lobed stigma, which is the part that receives pollen, is particularly noticeable as it protrudes above the stamens on a long white style. (1b)
Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion augustifolium) or Lus na tine in Irish can be seen now in waste places, disturbed ground, railway embankments and places where burning too place. (2) It is sometimes called Fireweed because of this and indeed its Irish name Lus na tine means the fire herb. The purplish pink flowers are pollinated by bees and hoverflies. The fruit is a capsule which bursts open in fine weather catapulting tufted seeds which are carried aloft by the wind. A single plant can produce as many as 80,000 seeds.
Broad-leaved willowherb (Epilobium montanum) or Saileachán leathan in Irish is widespread in gardens, woodlands, roadside verges and waste ground. (3) Its small, pale pink flowers have four notched petals. The broad leaves are hairless, toothed and lance shaped or lanceolate. It can grow to 60 centimetres in height on round stems that are sometimes tinged with red. Like the other willowherbs its seeds are contained in square capsules which split open to release many seeds each of which is attached to a tuft of short hairs called a pappus.